Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction, I do not own Final Fantasy VIII.
Note: I wrote this as a prequel to Unconventional Idea. Interestingly enough, about 800 words of this was supposed to be in that work. Considering I finished that before for the FF8 Winter Festival 2020-2021, it happens. This story will feature my own form of worldbuilding for FF8. Hopefully you enjoy it~ Brief mention of Magic Resistance (Quistis/Rinoa) but heavy in worldbuilding.
The Deling Hotel, Deling City, ~ 21:45PM
Another mission well done by the Commander's chosen party. What better way to celebrate than getting food and enjoying a movie?
"Guys I'm back!" The voice announced on the other side of the hotel's door followed by fumbling. The individual was trying to get the keycard against the door itself and sounded like a trial of sorts. Walking towards the door, Zell, dressed down along with his hair down as well, opened it only to see Selphie with bags of miscellaneous items. Some of it smelled delicious, while others were heavier.
The martial artist offers to take some of the bags, allowing it to be easier to walk into the room together. Their Commander, shirtless and in the process of reaching for a t-shirt to wear as he regards his friend, "That took longer than expected."
His stomach agreed with that very statement as the bags were rustling to figure out what was inside them before being brought to the table near the balcony.
"They were busy tonight. Even though I ordered through the app to pick it up, I still had to wait fifteen minutes." Selphie exasperates while sorting through the containers and plastic cutlery for everyone on the table. As she set the drinks aside, she fished around in the bag that had the movie selection she picked up for renting. It was around 22:00 hours so they could potentially watch two or three before bed, depending on the length.
Announcing she rented some titles for them to watch as they ate and after, she read them off for Squall and Zell to decide amongst themselves. It was Selphie's turn to pick out movies that she found interesting, but also piques the interest of her best friends. Naturally, her interest in horror snuck in, so she knew that there was a good chance neither man would want to see it. Zell for the fact that some scenes squick him out and Squall has night terrors after watching horror movies, especially if they were graphic.
They settled on a movie that appeared as though it gave the vibe of being a historical action film with romantic elements. Squall shrugged considering the movie spoke more to Zell than him, but he was interested in seeing what it was about regardless.
Needless to say, it took everyone by surprise.
The film was about the Sorceress Zenobia that amassed the largest army comprised of Dark Knights in the Southern part of Centra, who had to overcome the trials and tribulations of being Queen while being faced with scrutiny by the public that feared her due to being one of Hyne's Descendants. Another jealous Sorceress wanted to create propaganda and overtake the Kingdom for herself. Needless to say, it demonstrated one thing to Squall: It didn't matter how old or different the circumstances were, war and Sorcery seem to always coexist. It was unfortunate since this was a film loosely based on several true figures in history. With creative liberties of course.
During the uninteresting parts of the film, Zell would showcase his specialty of being the group's well-read informational distributor. The movie was subtitled in New Standard, so while none of them were that capable of understanding the Esthari language, he filled in some of the blanks that did not make sense. The language was something Quistis excelled at, but the blonde had proven his usefulness for the tidbits he did know.
When Zenobia shared her powers with her chosen knight out of her dark knight army in the film, Selphie couldn't help but ask a question that should've been answered already, "Is sharing a Sorceress's powers just that matter of fact or is it more intimate than that?"
Zell was too busy enjoying his meal to even offer anything but his eyes on Squall, who contemplated the question.
"There is a lot of behind-the-scenes intricacies, a lot that isn't physically possible to see by others." Squall squinted his eyes as if trying to see something that wouldn't normally be seen. Looking down at his almost finished meal, he picked at it while considering his words. "It's true that it is more of an intimate process. Sometimes you don't know you've been chosen until it happens, and you take it upon yourself to commit to it."
It didn't make sense. The events leading up to when Rinoa got her powers unwillingly a few years ago didn't even make sense, let alone how she put the most of her faith into Squall back then. It felt as though something unlocked within him when she went into a comatose state that probably wouldn't have been possible if she wasn't the next successor in line to accept the Sorceress powers. Regardless, Squall couldn't explain if it was his own doing or hers, it was not something the average person would be able to understand. Even explaining it sounded strange out loud.
As the movie progressed, the Chosen Knight and the Sorceress in question were not even romantically involved, contrary to popular belief that floats around between the Sorceress Knights and their Sorceress they are bound to. Queen Zenobia had a female partner that she devoted her life to protecting. Yet, this knight, she trusted him with her life beyond his (and Squall's) own comprehension. Hamzaharradi's gaze batting an eye and he looked her in her eyes without trepidation unlike few of the other knights that feared her.
It was a dynamic of respect. This should have been expected considering in the earlier parts of the film, he helped her when she was a princess to sneak out and go out to war with him and others to defend their country from being invaded. Even though this was based on real-life figures, something resonated within Squall to continue his interest in the film.
After everyone finished eating at the table, they migrated to the king-sized bed and resumed watching the rest of the film. Zell closest to the balcony as he had two pillows to prop his head and forearms up, Selphie half draped herself on Squall's back and the bed, idling braiding his hair and then undoing it out of boredom. It was a nostalgic feeling considering Ellone used to do it when he was younger to put him to sleep as a kid. Odd memory and sensations to resurface, but it was comforting.
Tensions started to rise in the film as Zenobia learned that her sister, Noor, was originally the target of an assassination attack plotted by the Sorceress that spearheaded the war. It appeared in the Olde World, there were more Sorceress Wars than current history books in Balamb and Galbadia had records of. No surprise there that this information was made readily available to citizens of Esthar.
There were elements that Squall expected. The Siege on Zenobia's Kingdom, the bloodshed of the Knights from the opposing region and the retreat on the forces. What caught Squall and his companions off guard was the fact that Nerida successfully made it through and slain Noor herself. The tear-jerking scene (evident by Selphie's soft sniffles) evoked a reactive response when Zenobia accepted her sister's Sorceress powers before turning her murderous gaze towards Nerida, who was willing to take on the combat trained Queen herself.
The duel was a deadly one and ended up with Nerida as the one slain, yet unable to release her powers. Her barely conscious state bore witness to Zenobia ordering her male Dark Knights to take the corpse bordering on life and death towards the cellars. It was a cold move if those three ever saw one.
Even colder was the Siege on Nerida's home border, plotted at sunrise and initiated at dusk. The army of Dark Knights stood at attention awaiting their Queen's orders, the general, Hamza ascented and sent them first. The Dark Knight's powers and movements were akin to being wraiths in the night, it sent chills down Squall's spine. The hairs stood on the back of everyone's neck when they saw the extent of a Sorceress's powers flow effortlessly through her knights. The Sorceress and her Chosen Knight followed, the screen showing both of their amber colors before they were whisked into the night. Watching in awe, Zell comments, "I've been reading about a lot of Centran history since we finally have access to it," he started, while stroking his chin, "Historians claim that Sorceress Wars have waged on for many centuries, just that they were always different and for differing reasons." Pausing, he asked, "Do you think they're that much different than the war we were involved in a few years ago?"
As the events of carnage and hunting for the captive Sorceress's daughter played out, the group thought to themselves. Squall chose his words carefully, knowing that there was no reason for that. He was amongst his peers that actually did not mind his stances on things, no reason to soften his words, yet there was a certain delicacy to the topic. While everyone in the room was affected by the first war, they had an unintentional hand in the second.
"From the outside looking in, there isn't a difference. Even though this movie has given us some form of an 'inside' of what caused the war, the citizens on both sides have no idea and just assume it has something to do with power."
Using his fist to prop up his cheek, he turned his eyes to Zell, "Yet if the historical elements of this movie is factual to what was documented in history—then my answer remains unchanged." Gesturing with his other hand, the brunette shrugged, "Sorceresses as we know and as this movie's shown us, come in different alignments and goals. Zenobia and her sister, Noor, are probably the most beloved Sorceresses of this time period."
Zell nodded while his face was contemplative, Squall continued, "Nerida's story is unclear based on the narrative. Perhaps she truly did want the power Zenobia and her sister possessed. Both of the sisters had no clue as to why she wanted the power for herself, the guards and knights only heard speculation about why the woman wanted the power." Shrugging, Selphie then looked down into his eyes as he continued, "I'm not saying that she deserved what she got, but I only know this side of the story."
When Squall had an opinion about something, everyone knew it if they chose to ask or engage with him personally. They also knew that when being asked such questions, he would be looking at both sides. With only one side present, he can only form one opinion. Which has earned Squall the title of being Devil's Advocate amongst those that didn't know him well enough.
However, those closest to him, Squall usually found himself leaning towards one side of the narrative he related with until proven otherwise. As the movie continued to roll out the previous forty-five minutes, he was swayed towards the narrative that wrapped around Queen Zenobia. It reminded him of when he was younger learning about the deities that governed Balamb Island. He only just learned last year that the real reason behind the active volcano on the island was not because of some gods and fairytales about people's hopes and dreams somehow containing the volcano (which he didn't believe to begin with). It was Sorceress Pele that loved her island who wanted to protect her people from the turbulent volcano. Her body and magic were the reason it was contained in a cavern. Zell claimed her body could be found within the cavern itself, further back within the depths that could not be reached. Squall considered looking into himself once the autumn and winter months arrived.
Selphie shared how in Trabia, they were outright told fables and the true history of the Sorceresses that protected their continent and sovereign homeland from outside invaders. That their connections to Esthar and Centra itself were what allowed the country to be a culturally rich location. Trabia and Centra used to be connected on the map according to the older maps Selphie had in her own personal belongings, which was interesting to see. It explained why Southern Centra was usually colder than Northern. Through trial and error, the Sorceresses of Trabia tried to exercise their power to protect all of the land. Certainly, the geographical phenomenon of Pangaea transpired, along with the Lunar Cry hitting parts of the continent where the magic was the weakest to protect. The tradition carried on for centuries until something occurred within the last century to incite a witch hunt that involved the Sorceress at the time to be wrongfully accused and soon killed on the very land she protected. The Trabians of that time period paid for their hubris when the following Lunar Cry, which Sorceress Agrippa protected the entire land from, was hit and took out the entire city of Trabia.
Hyne may have been an awful and lazy God alive, but the Sorceresses that held His power were some of the most honest and selfless human beings to exist. It was unfortunate that through time fear and propaganda had warped their purpose and existences for the worst.
The martial artist looked as though Christmas came early with the information that was shared and how Selphie got her cell phone and showed him as much. He was in heaven when he took the smartphone from Selphie's hands and just reading with intense interest.
Unexpectedly so, Selphie returns to Squall and asks a question he was silently waiting to be asked. He had an inkling it was coming, "So, the movie claimed that it was natural for Sorceresses to feel comfortable dating and being around women," Inquisitive green eyes met apathetic grey in that moment. "I always read about it but… is that why Rinoa is dating Quistis now?"
Zell appeared too busy to even concern himself with the switch in the discussion, so Squall turned his face towards the television screen. "That could be one of the reasons." Rinoa's sexuality wasn't a topic that Squall cared to discuss since that was her business and her's alone. Yet, he wasn't that oblivious. The Trabian raised woman knew how to keep her mouth shut about these matters, "She had been interested in her before she became a Sorceress, just hid it because she was ashamed."
The other way around too, which explains why Quistis was so hard on me regarding Rinoa. He thought idly. That connection didn't get made until later, but it was strange to think how everyone was pushing him towards Rinoa when the freedom fighter technically had no clue what she even wanted at the time. On the outside, Squall and Quistis were much similar, so one could make the assumption. Yet, Squall pushed Quistis out when she just wanted someone to talk to and to be openly vulnerable with. He couldn't offer that to anyone, let alone himself at the time. He did deem it as a burden, but looking back, he just didn't know how to interact under those circumstances. Opening up towards someone that he was once a student alongside him and then became an instructor a year before he would be in SeeD himself? It made no sense to him. However, he was happy when Rinoa and Quistis made an honest attempt at dating and getting to know each other.
"They make way more sense than you and her, honestly." Selphie said matter-of-factly. Chuckling, Squall agreed. He loved the friendship and the lessons Rinoa taught him, but they just were not meant to be together. He still intended to be her knight, since the movie did put his heart at ease at how Sorceress and Knight bonds didn't have to be romantic or sexual. Platonic worked just fine, if not better.
As the movie finished out, Selphie had fallen asleep against his right shoulder and Zell had moved to cuddle closer towards Squall's body. All the body heat was making him drowsy. Once the credits finished rolling, he was more than happy to get settled into bed.
Tidying up before they settled into bed, ensuring that Selphie got her own blanket before she thought to steal theirs. Zell was in the bathroom brushing his teeth as Squall was turning off the TV and taking the disc out and setting it back in its case. He looked at the back of the case as he walked towards the balcony. There were questions he had and he wondered if reading more about a history he only now has access to, could change the world's perception about Sorceresses?
Esthar celebrated them in the same breath as they got rid of them. What were SeeDs supposed to think? What was anyone supposed to think?
As Zell called him over to the bed, he set the case down and tried to slow his thoughts down. After all, he knew he'd be wide awake thinking about that or other events with how overly active his mind was.